Are We Blindly Following Data?

The following was previously published in an earlier edition of Marketing Insider.

Who do we develop ads for?" This question has become more relevant in recent years as marketers grow and expand upon their data capabilities. From chatbots and AI, to natural language processing and sentiment analysis, to forecasts and other statistical models, all of these techniques rely on data. But should we, as a creative industry, always follow data blindly?

Misunderstanding Data

In 2019, according to eMarketer, 15-second videos comprised 57% of all digital ad performance worldwide, followed by 30-second videos at 28%. This data suggests that we as marketers should be creating content that is 15 seconds or less versus longer videos. By comparison, digital videos that were longer than 75 seconds (75, 90, and >90) comprised 0% of worldwide metrics.

Based on this information, a logical conclusion would be that some of the most impactful videos from the past few years would be 15 seconds. Why else are so many advertisers relying on them? However, how many 15-second videos have had a nation- (or global-) wide impact?  



But what about the Colin Kaepernick video created by Nike that ran for two minutes and twenty-two seconds? This long-form video would not be recommended and yet went viral, garnering over hundreds of thousands of views. So why, when the data suggested otherwise, how did this succeed?

Harmonizing Data & Creative

This is the crux of the problem when it comes to relying on data. Data tells us averages. It tells us most likely events  — even in multiple linear regressions, we can only reject the null hypothesis and not prove a statistical relationship.

Data’s power lies in optimization. If we develop ads for the data, then we will see an influx of similar content trying to capitalize on a small slice of the market.

However, in advertising and marketing, the truly effective ads and movements aren’t just created by optimizations. They are created by venturing where no creative has gone before. By taking a bold risk, Nike was rewarded with publicity for weeks, versus another flash in the pan.

Advertising at its core is a creative industry. The creative is what moves us, inspires us, and drives us. It should be at the forefront of our strategies.

Data, on the other hand, should help guide where we place the creative, the frequency of it, what demographics need to see it, and more.

In other words, creative shouldn't conform to data; data should be used to optimize creative. Because at the end of the day, an ad is only as good as the story it tells and the people it connects with.

2 comments about "Are We Blindly Following Data?".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, July 1, 2021 at 7:50 a.m.

    While I agree that "creative" must not be controlled by "data" , just because more online videos by marketers are of 15-second duration---as opposed to 30-seconds---does not necessarily mean that the shorter ones are more effective. The advertisers involved may not be in the same product classes or there may be cost and availability of media time issues at play. As for "data" being mainly a media placement thing, it  can also give many clues as to the mindsets of consumers, which goes to the way that brands position themselves in their ads. It's not just demos---often its whether the audience has a mindset that makes it more receptive to what the brand is claiming and how its story is told. Such associations frequently transcend mere demo comparisons. Not all 18-34s living in affluent households think the same way about being fashion- or health- or price- conscious,

  2. John Grono from GAP Research, July 2, 2021 at 12:53 a.m.

    Good question Matthew!

    The data is just in and it appears that we are.

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